Recently, it was announced that the next season of The Walking Dead (season 11) would be its last. This was bittersweet news for fans, who adored the show back in its heyday (arguably seasons 3-6) but have grown tired of watching it flounder. The thing is, while the original series probably should conclude, the spin-offs continue. There’s the fitfully engaging Fear the Walking Dead, the just announced Carol (Melissa McBride) and Darryl (Norman Reedus) spin-off and now, The Walking Dead: World Beyond, perhaps the strangest side project of all.
The Walking Dead: World Beyond takes place ten years after the zombie apocalypse. Enough time for an entirely new generation to have been raised with only vague memories of the world before. In the first two episodes, our plucky young protagonists, Hope Bennett (Alexa Mansour), Iris Bennett (Aliyah Royale), Elton Ortiz (Nicolas Cantu) and Silas Plaskett (Hal Cumpston) leave their safe, but dull, community in Nebraska and go on a mission into the wider world. Humanity has bounced back after a decade and these kids have lived most of their lives never having to fight the shambling deceased. They want adventure, they want experience and in the case of sisters Hope and Iris? They want to find their dad.
World Beyond’s premise is actually pretty neat, but the execution is a little less inspiring. The main problem is the kids; they’re borderline intolerable. With the possible exception of Hope, you may find yourself passionately yearning for a shambling horde to gobble them up. But more than subjective dislike, the idea of people unfamiliar with zombies facing them for the first time is… well, it’s the premise for the original Walking Dead, isn’t it? There was an opportunity here for some George Romero-esque evolution of philosophy regarding the ambulatory cadavers, more practical responses to living with strolling corpses and the like, but the show seems content taking the least interesting approach, and it’s kind of a pity.
That’s not to say it’s a disaster. Two episodes in and there’s plenty of potential in this Young Adult adventure. The main mission feels a bit Stand By Me (which isn’t a bad thing) and the zombies look fantastic, as always. Some striking imagery helps also, with an enormous perpetual tyre fire chockers with walkers being a highlight. Plus, there’s a subplot with Julia Ormond that seems interesting and will likely divulge some secrets about the whereabouts of Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), who fans are eagerly awaiting the return of (in whatever form it ends up taking).
The Walking Dead: World Beyond is… not amazing, but it has loads of potential. The slightly annoying cast may evolve (or die!) and the world is intriguing enough to keep you entertained. Plus, the fact that it’s a finite yarn with only two ten episode seasons suggests it almost certainly won’t outstay its welcome, which is appreciated.